a top-10 low residency MFA program
—Poets & Writers, year after year after year
What is a low residency MFA program?
Low residency MFA programs begin with a residency away from home. Our ten-day residencies take place on the Louisville campus or in an international location and mark the beginning of a semester. The low residency model offers immersion in a diverse community of writers for a brief time. Students have the opportunity to connect with writers from all over the country to exchange ideas, to receive feedback on manuscripts, and to broaden aesthetic views.
During the residency, students and faculty attend workshops, lectures, conferences, panel discussions, and readings. Workshops typically fill half the day. The other half is taken up with lectures; panel discussions; faculty, student, or guest readings; or other curriculum-related events. Students are expected to attend morning, afternoon, and evening sessions. The workshops are small, no more than twelve students directed by two faculty members or about six students with one faculty member. Most Workshops focus on a particular genre; occasionally a cross-genre Workshop includes student work from two areas of concentration. At the residency students have the opportunity to experiment in other modes of writing to gain an even broader appreciation of the uses of language and forms.
Lectures, given by faculty members and guest speakers from the writing or publishing community, focus on the craft of writing, a particular writer or work, or the world of publishing. Some sessions offer the opportunity to do writing exercises. The student plans, in consultation with his or her faculty mentor, the course of study for the independent study or at-home portion of the semester, which includes original writing and a reading list of books about which the students write critical commentary. Residencies incorporate an editing/publishing component. The students submit evaluations and reports on workshops, lectures, panel discussions, readings, and other residency activities.
Click to see an abbreviated (students names have been removed) low residency MFA Residency Schedule from a recent residency. Click to see faculty and guest residency lecture descriptions (graduating student lectures have been removed).
Spalding’s low residency MFA program has much to offer in the arts, including theater, orchestra, opera, ballet, jazz, modern dance, architecture, and cuisine. At the fall and spring residencies, students and faculty may attend events at such places as the nationally acclaimed Actors Theatre, the Kentucky Center for the Arts, the Brown Theater, or the Speed Art Museum. At the summer residencies, students and faculty visit places and attend events that relate to the locale. Both formal and informal discussion after such outings promotes collegiality, enriches the curriculum, and deepens understanding of the interrelatedness of the arts.
Spalding’s low residency MFA program begins the spring residencies in late May and the fall residencies in early-mid November. These residencies begin on a Friday and continue for ten days. Thus, the residency dates vary slightly from year to year but always fit the pattern of two weekends with the week in between. Students are expected to arrive by late afternoon on the first Friday and stay until the final Sunday.
To promote a feeling of community, students and faculty read a selected book (from a different genre each semester), which is discussed the first night of the residency. When possible, the author of the book is a guest later in the residency; the author gives a public presentation and has a private Q&A session with all MFA students and faculty. Guests for this aspect of the program have included novelists Tim O’Brien, Ernest J. Gaines, Ann Patchett, Susan Vreeland, and Michael Ondaatje; poets and essayists Yusef Komunyakaa and Molly Peacock; children’s writers Jaqueline Woodson, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Donna Jo Napoli, Patricia MacLachlan, and Nancy Willard; poets W. S. Merwin, Claudia Emerson, and Frank X Walker; essayists Terry Tempest Williams, Pico Iyer, Barry Lopez, and Scott Russell Sanders; poet and children’s writer Naomi Shihab Nye; screenwriters Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) and Robert Moresco (Crash); and playwrights Marsha Norman, Heather Raffo, and Rebecca Gilman. In fall 2014, the Program hosts our Diana M. Raab Distinguished Writer in Residence Pamela Muñoz Ryan.
Transportation to and from Spalding’s low residency MFA program is each student’s responsibility. Louisville is easily accessible by air or by major highways. Some of the residency meals (except breakfast) are included in the tuition. These planned group meals provide the opportunity for students to socialize with other students and faculty members. Food choices vary—from the Spalding cafeteria to local restaurants to specially catered meals. For meals not included in the tuition and for those who choose to venture out on their own for meals, some restaurants are within walking distance or on the trolley line, and many are only a short drive away.
Spalding’s low residency program offers an optional housing package. Currently accommodations are offered at the nearby four-diamond, four-star Brown Hotel (pictured above). Single or double, nonsmoking rooms are available. In the event the number of students wanting rooms at the Brown is greater than the rooms we have reserved, an alternative downtown hotel/motel will be suggested. Students are welcome to arrange lodging on their own. For any student who wishes to have use of exercise facilities, Spalding University has some exercise equipment, and the Brown Hotel has an exercise room for use by guests.
Students with cars need an on-campus parking permit, which is good for the duration of the residency. A parking permit does not guarantee that there are spaces available in a Spalding lot, so students staying nearby may want to walk to classes. A special parking rate has been arranged in the Brown Hotel self-park garage; complete information is available near the time of the residency.
The Spalding campus is located in a near downtown area and is patrolled regularly by Campus Safety. While the area has a low incidence of crime, we recommend everyone exercise common sense and keep personal items close at hand, valuables out of sight in their cars, walk in well-lighted areas, and always stay in large groups rather than walk alone to or from residency events. If requested, Campus Safety personnel escort students to their cars or to the Brown Hotel.
The Spalding low residency MFA program’s summer residencies take place in an international location in late June or July for 10 days, plus travel days. Students, faculty, and staff fly on their own, where they meet for residency classes and events. Spalding offers standard hotel accommodations at three-star hotels, which are a double room (single supplement available) with bath, although accommodations may also be offered from youth hostels to boutique three-star hotels. After arrival, the first afternoon and evening is open, allowing students to adjust to time differences and, if desired, to do some exploring on their own. The next day begins with classes and ends with a gala welcome dinner. For the rest of the week, the schedule includes exploring local literary culture, arts, architecture, history, and cuisine, as well as a full complement of workshops, lectures, readings, mentor conferences, and group discussions of the pre-reading assignments of literary works by international authors. Previous locations have been Paris, London/Bath, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Rome/Tuscany, and Galway/Dublin. The planned destinations for 2014 is Prague/Berlin, for 2015, Greece (Athens and Crete), and for 2016, Rome.
In 2014, forty-five students, ten faculty and staff, and seventeen alumni and guests attended the summer residency in Prague and Berlin. Areas of concentration represented are fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, writing for children and young adults, screenwriting, and playwriting. Always for any particular genre to be taught during the summer semester, there must be a minimum of 3 students in order to provide a rich academic experience for all students.
While, in some cases, students may bring family members or guests with them, because of the intense class schedule, students may prefer family or guests to arrive after the residency for an extended stay abroad. Family members or guests accompanying students during the residency also book travel through EF College Tours and are not included in any classes or curriculum events, which may include meals, arts events, museums, or tours. And, of course, all costs attributable to family members or guests are the responsibility of the student or guest including travel, additional hotel room costs, transportation to and from the hotel, meals, etc.
Spalding University’s low residency MFA in Writing program is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Spalding University’s low residency MFA in Writing program is a member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and the Playwrights’ Center.
MFA Office: (502) 873-4400 or (800) 896-8941, ext. 4400
MFA in Writing
851 South Fourth Street
Louisville, KY 40203
FAX: (502) 992-2409
last updated 07-26-2014, information subject to change without notice